Every big-budget blockbuster or award-winning drama begins with a script, but no movie makes it to the screen without making some changes from the printed page. But sometimes, it’s what happens when actors go OFF the script that is most remembered. Here are ScreenRant’s 10 GReatest Unscripted Movie Scenes.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Bringing a Gun to a Sword Fight
When Indiana Jones’ leading lady is kidnapped in search of a Holy relic in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film’s hero finds himself seriously outmatched. Instead of trying to actually fight a skilled swordsman, Jones simply pulls out his gun and drops his opponent with a single shot. The original script had called for a lengthy fight sequence, but when Harrison Ford was struck with food poisoning the night before filming, his energy was so sapped on set, he asked Steven Spielberg if he could simply shoot the man instead. The director agreed, and one of Indy’s most iconic moments was born.
The Dark Knight: A Round of Applause
Heath Ledger’s Joker is a comic book villain for the ages, blending anarchy with dark humor in nearly every one of his scenes in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. After finding himself in police custody, he witnesses firsthand Jim Gordon’s promotion to the rank of Police Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud their colleague, the mocking, expressionless clapping from the jail cell grabs all their attention, putting the camera squarely on Joker – a chilling moment that Ledger completely improvised during the scene.
Taxi Driver: You Talkin To Me?
Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro will forever be remembered for the chilling tale of Travis Bickle, the insomniac star of Taxi Driver – particularly Bickle’s unforgettable mirror monologue centered on a single question: “You talkin’ to me?” But the script only stated that Travis should begin speaking to himself in front of the mirror, without any specific details on what sort of scene to play out. The lines which followed were improvised by DeNiro entirely on the spot, with his words, raised eyebrow, and general attitude coming to define the actor for decades to come.
The Usual Suspects: The Line-up
The most iconic scene from Bryan Singer’s ‘The Usual Suspects’ centers on a police line-up of the film’s main cast of criminals. But writer Christopher McQuarrie came up with just a single line of dialogue for each actor to repeat, meaning it was up to the actors to shape the rest of the scene. When it came time to film, the actors sought to outdo one another, turning the scene into a mess of laughter. Even McQuarrie himself – playing the police officer on the intercom – got in on the action, asking actor Benicio del Toro to offer the line “In English please,” getting an unscripted response in return.
The Empire Strikes Back: Han’s Goodbye
When the heroes of Star Wars find themselves ambushed during the final act of The Empire Strike Back, Han Solo is captured by the bouny hunter Boba Fett, planned to be frozen in carbonite and returned to Jabba the Hutt. With his character’s future uncertain, Han and Leia were meant to say their goodbyes in the form of matching “I Love you”s. But director Ivan Kershner felt something was missing, and told actor Harrison Ford to simply respond the way he felt his character should before shouting ‘Action!’ What Ford came up with captured the smuggler’s attitude perfectly, and offered a line no Star Wars fan will ever forget.
The Shining: Here’s Johnny!
Stanley Kubrick’s tale of supernatural and psyhological terror was an instant classic, due as much to Jack Nicholson’s crazed descent into madness as the novel upon which The Shining was based. When Jack turns on his family – chasing his wife and son into a bathroom – he begins chopping through the door with a fire axe, before offering a twisted version of the phrase made famous on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson: “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!” The line became a shorthand for the entire movie, despite it not appearing in Kubrick’s original screenplay, improvised by Nicholson during the scene.
The Silence of the Lambs: A Nice Chianti
Few cinematic psychopaths have even come close to the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The Silence of The Lambs.’ While Hopkins proved chilling in every one of his scenes, ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ cemented his legacy with a single anecdote involving a dinner of “fava beans, and a nice Chianti.” Hannibal’s specific tastes were found in the script, but Hopkins’ unsettling suckling sound effect wasn’t. The actor had started making the sound to creep out his co-star Jodie Foster during rehearsals, and the director decided it was too good to leave out.